Minister urges Keir Starmer to publish messages with Sue Gray as Partygate investigator ‘insists talks over chief of staff position have been going on for weeks’
- Chris Heaton-Harris stressed that he believes Sue Gray is a “lady of integrity.”
A minister today urged Keir Starmer to publish details of his contacts with Sue Gray – amid claims she will tell a government watchdog that she has only been in talks for ‘weeks’ about becoming chief of staff .
The Partygate investigator is expected to formally notify the Advisory Committee on Corporate Appointments (Acoba) tomorrow that she intends to assume the political office.
The move comes amid mounting calls from Tories to block the move to avoid “politicizing” the civil service.
Boris Johnson’s allies have also insisted Ms Gray’s new allegiance taints the findings of her investigation into Whitehall bashes.
That evidence is being used in a report by the Commons Privileges Committee to investigate whether the ex-prime minister misled Parliament – potentially putting him up for a by-election.
In interviews this morning, Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris urged Sir Keir to ‘help’ his new chief aide by being transparent about their dealings.
Mr Heaton-Harris acknowledged that Ms Gray, who has served long civil decency duties, would have a lot of sensitive information.
But he told Sky News’ Ridge on Sunday: “I do believe she’s a lady of integrity, so I’m not worried about that.”
Sue Gray is expected to tell a government watchdog that she has only been in talks with Labor for “weeks” to become Keir Starmer’s chief of staff.
Boris Johnson’s allies (left) have insisted Ms Gray’s newfound loyalty to Keir Starmer (right) taints the findings of her inquiry into lockdown-breaking bashes in Whitehall.
Sir Keir has so far dodged questions about when talks began with Ms Gray, who is awaiting Acoba’s decision before accepting the role.
Heaton-Harris said, “Here’s where Keir can help his new chief of staff by just publishing all the messages and things he’s had with her at the time.”
‘I dealt with Sue Gray from the Northern Ireland Office as a civil servant.
‘I also see her as a woman of integrity. So I have no problem with that.
“I think Keir could clear this up in seconds by saying this is what we were talking about back then, there’s nothing to see here.”
According to the Sunday Times, Ms Gray will tell the watchdog that talks have been going on with Labor for ‘several weeks’ – rather than the months some have speculated.
Acoba may recommend wait times before civil servants take other jobs, with the prime minister making the final decision.
Over the weekend, Labor chairwoman Anneliese Dodds rejected suggestions that the move would be a ‘distraction’ from the Privileges Committee’s inquiry, as she insisted that all necessary procedures would be followed.
Sue Gray is a person of tremendous integrity. Someone who has actually served in the civil service under ministers from a number of parties, someone who has always served with that integrity,” she told Sky News.
“I am delighted that she is joining the Labor team as we gear up for a government if the British public supports us in the next general election.
What matters to us as Labor, as always, is that we see the same rules and approaches applied to this as she would see any other appointment. Therefore, official confidentiality procedures will be followed.
In interviews this morning, Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris downplayed concerns that Ms Gray could use government insider information as Sir Keir’s chief of staff.
“That is why the civil service watchdog Acoba will have to look into this, just like any other appointment, and it is entirely right that those procedures be followed. They’ll be for Sue Gray as they would be for any high-ranking official.’
But former Conservative leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith questioned the wisdom of the move.
“There needs to be a much clearer awareness for civil servants that once you get into politics it’s a whole different game,” he told Times Radio.
“So you have to take a big break between when you leave work and when you start your job, especially if you’re a senior.”